PHILADELPHIA EAGLES 24, BALTIMORE RAVENS 23
SEPTEMBER 16, 2012
Seeking explanations for a 24-23 loss to the Eagles, the Ravens faithful will surely question the fairness of the officiating in Philadelphia.
All afternoon Robert Frazier’s frantic crew of replacement officials failed miserably to keep players from taking shots at one another after the whistle, and they were downright laughable simply trying to correctly spot the ball amidst the ongoing chaos.
So when Ravens receiver Jacoby Jones was flagged for a questionable and rare offensive pass interference call in the end zone, reversing a Ravens touchdown that seemed to put Baltimore up by ten points late in the game, it begged more questions.
And when they flagged Arthur Jones for a late hit on Michael Vick as the Eagles quarterback released his final pass – the type hit that had been allowed all game long – even more questions of fairness were certainly mumbled by Ravens fans as the ball was moved halfway to the goal line as a result of the flag, setting up the final Eagles score.
It will be difficult for Ravens fans not to dwell on the poor officiating. But it would be just as wrong to overlook the poor play on the field by the Ravens in a number of areas.
Joe Flacco–after looking like one of the top throwers in the league last Monday night, and putting up solid first-half numbers in Philadelphia (14 for 17, 92 yards, 1 TD)—fell apart in the second half, looking hurried and throwing off target. He was just 8 of 25 for 140 yards, with one interception in the second half.
Meanwhile, the Ravens defense was consistently a step late getting to Vick, roughing him up but also allowing him to rack up 371 yards through the air, including one passing and one rushing touchdown.
And even when they forced turnovers, four of them altogether, the Ravens offense did little with the opportunity.
It was a frustrating day for Baltimore. Tempers flared early. The officiating was uneven. And the play on the field didn’t come close to overcoming whatever obstacles may or may not had been thrown Baltimore’s way.
Joe Flacco played well early, despite only having the ball for two snaps ten minutes into the game. He threw with good rhythm and made use of his second and third receiver options. His best play early in the game came when he sidestepped a blitz up middle, rolled right, and perfectly lofted a touchdown to Jacoby Jones over the highly touted Eagles corner Nnamdi Asomugha. That may have been close to his last good play.
He gradually started forcing more and more throws into coverage, and make riskier decisions. including a pick to DeMeco Ryans in triple coverage. And he was guilty of staring down Dennis Pitta on a few throws in the fourth quarter. He was responsible for two turnovers, the interception and his early fumble, which led to 14 Eagles points.
Running Backs: B
Ray Rice was also effective early, getting 78 yards on seven first half carries, delivering blows on tacklers and fighting for extra yards. But he would only gain 21 more on his next nine carries.
After being held to -2 yards on three, first-half pass catches, he was a much bigger factor as a second-half receiver, catching six for 53 yards. He was clutch on two critical third-down conversions on the team’s final scoring drive. But he was also flagged for a personal foul after Ryans’ interception.
Vonta Leach was effective on limited touches, bulling his way for a touchdown and showing nifty footwork after a catch to spin for extra yards.
Wide Receivers: C+
Ravens wideouts accounted for just six catches. The low total partly reflects an off day by Flacco. But they were targeted just twelve times and that partly reflects an inability to get separation in the Eagles secondary.
Jacoby Jones was the better of the three wideouts, and his only catch showcased his speed on a double move past Nnamdi Asomugha for the score. He also drew a penalty on Asomugha when he beat the corner on the opposite sideline. He had another TD catch reversed after he had gotten behind the defender but was called for pushing off.
Torrey Smith also drew a penalty on Domonique Rodgers-Cromartie after he had used his speed to beat the defender downfield. Anquan Boldin and Tandon Doss each had a critical possession catch on slant patterns out of the slot.
Tight Ends: B
Dennis Pitta continues to be Flacco’s go-to option, and his eight catches for 65 yards are testament to that fact. He shows improving strength after the catch at times, knocking over a linebacker and falling for extra yards.
Interior Line: C
This group mirrored the performances of Flacco and Rice, dominating early but struggling late. Or, more to the point, their second-half struggles stymied the offense overall. It was too much DeMeco Ryans up the A-gap too often to give this unit a better grade.
Which is too bad, because they dominated early. Ramon Harewood was collapsing the line and getting to the second level to make key blocks. But he seemed to tire as the game wore getting pushed into the backfield too often, and his missed assignment on Derek Landri led to a near sack, causing Flacco to misfire on a throw to a wide-open Pitta in the end zone.
Matt Birk was reduced to holding Fletcher Cox to stop a sack. Marshall Yanda had his usual outstanding game, highlighted by bulldozing Cullen Jenkins into the back of the end zone on Leach’s TD run.
Michael Oher struggled to hold the edge in pass protection, but improved enough, and showed enough athleticism at times to call it a decent performance. He was beaten by linebacker Trent Cole off the edge to force a Flacco fumble that lead to an early Eagles score.
Kelechi Osemele continues to impress in run blocking, shoving Mychal Kendricks backward on goal line to allow Leach to walk-in. And he pulled all the way to left end to lead Rice on a 37-yard scamper. Osemele was less steady on pass blocking assignments and allowed Fletcher Cox to take a free run inside run at Flacco to force one of many incompletions on the day.
Cary Williams spent far too much time fighting with DeSean Jackson and far too little time running in stride with him. He allowed Jeremy Maclin to run past him, presumably hoping to hand off the receiver to safety Ed Reed, but there was confusion on the play to give up an easy Eagles score.
Jimmy Smith on the opposite corner continues to alternate good and poor plays. Too often he is turned around by receivers running simple patterns. But he does show good recovery skills, even when DeSean Jackson simply made a good play over his outstretched hand for a fifty-yard completion down the sideline.
Lardarius Webb continued to play at a Pro Bowl level on the inside, leading the team with seven tackles. And not just mop-up tackles, but sure, hard-hitting takedowns near the line of scrimmage. He also forced a fumble.
Bernard Pollard was once again a one-man highlight reel, adjusting on a ball in the end zone for a pick when Vick tried to throw it through a rapidly closing window across his body. And he laid the lumber to Brent Celek on a throw along the numbers. Pollard left the game after getting a sack of Vick on what appeared to be a hard hit to his hip by teammate Courtney Upshaw who was also arriving at the scene at the same time.
James Ihedigbo replaced Pollard and was effective as a run blitzer, but that was about it.
Ed Reed had an up and down day. He too got a pick on a pass deflected by Ray Lewis. And he made some nice open field tackles, five solo tackles and a pass defended to go with his pick. But he was flagged for clubbing Vick in the head, and it appeared he guessed wrong in allowing Maclin to run free behind him to the end zone.
Ray Lewis had a poor day. After accumulating 14 tackles the week before, Lewis tallied just five this week. He took poor pursuit angles, including whiffing on Vick’s touchdown run. Still, even an off day for Lewis included a tipped ball to Reed, a pass defended and a fumble recovered.
Jameel McClain could not do much as a blitzer up the middle and was often caught up in traffic against the run. The group as a whole was burned badly by the tight end Celek, who was constantly loose behind them, catching eight balls for 157 yards.
With Paul Kruger out with a back injury, Albert McClellan and Courtney Upshaw played decently on the edges, each racking up six tackles. Other than getting set slowly and caught off guard on a couple of plays, Upshaw played faster and more effectively. He left the game late after seemingly tweaking the right shoulder that he had injured in the preseason.
McClellan made some plays against the run, fighting to hold the edge and athletically slipping blocks to make plays, and showed he has the speed to keep up with backs in coverage. He nearly made a spectacular play on Celek, standing him up with a shot on the line of scrimmage, and then trailing him into the flat and jumping a pass attempt, but having the pass bounce off his hands. McClellan also fell onto a fumble by Bryce Brown.
Defensive Line: B-
Despite the Eagles second half success, this group seemed to play better in the second half, getting more penetration and pressure. They got shots on Vick all day long, repeatedly battering the quarterback just as he threw the ball. With Terrence Cody effectively bottling up the middle, Haloti Ngata, Ma’ake Kemoeatu, and Arthur Jones were all effective penetrating into the backfield, causing running back LeSean McCoy to cut back inside on most runs, where too often there was no linebacker help.
Pernell McPhee looked slow and ineffective early, but did get a big hit on Vick late in the game as he released a pass.
Special Teams: A-
Justin Tucker was flawless, and nearly had the chance to win the game had the Ravens managed to get the ball across the fifty-yard line on the final drive. He tied the team record with a 56-yarder that would have been easily good from 60+, and was perfect from 51 and 46 yards out as well. He consistently booted kick offs through the back of the end zone as well.
Jacoby Jones and Deonte Thompson were both effective returning kicks. Brendon Ayanbadejo played very well downfield covering kicks.
The team had a fake punt set up perfectly but up-back Sean Considine tripped over James Ihedigbo, landing short of the first down, and handing the ball over to the Eagles in Ravens territory. They escaped damage only because Vick later fumbled on the Ravens’ 25.
The defensive coaching staff needs to find an answer to stopping the intermediate throw and needs to ensure better communication in the secondary. Dean Pees can’t rely on three-man rushes in crunch time if his back six defenders can’t communicate and cover better.
On offense, they got away from the run too quickly when the line was still dominating and stayed too long with the pass when Flacco was struggling through the second half.
Johh Harbaugh made a poor decision to challenge whether Vick’s knee was down. The Ravens already benefitted from a ten-yard penalty for holding on the play, and the potential gain from a reversed call was not worth the actual loss of a timeout.